Top Polish judge slams PiS ‘coup’
Poland’s Chief Justice Malgorzata Gersdorf wrote in an open letter: “The coup d’etat against the structure of one of the most important state institutions is taking place: not with armed force or paramilitary troops but ‘only’ by misusing legal institutions.
“Nobody who wins democratic elections rules only on behalf of his voters, but on behalf of all citizens. Also no one is allowed to destroy the structures of the constitutional bodies of the state,” Gersdorf added.
The EU launched unprecedented disciplinary proceedings against Warsaw last week over its legal reforms, saying they threatened the rule of law.
The EU’s move to trigger Artice 7, which is unprecedented, comes after the European Commission repeatedly warned that the judicial changes are incompatible with Brussels’ core values. The process could lead to the suspension of Poland’s voting rights within the EU.
President Andrzej Duda signed a law which empowers the president to pick which judges may remain on the Supreme Court after reaching 65.
PiS says the aim is to curb corruption and the influence of the former communist elite, forcing pre-1989 judges to retire.
The lowering of the retirement age from 70 for Supreme Court judges would force out about 40 per cent of those currently sitting.
The Council of Europe commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, said the laws “will further undermine the independence of the judiciary by subordinating it to the executive and the legislature and will thereby further erode the separation of powers and the rule of law”.
Duda said in the US “the president chooses Supreme Court judges, while the Senate gives its opinion; judges’ circles have no say in the matter”.
“We cannot allow judges to govern themselves and decide on matters that concern them without anyone else having any oversight,” Duda said. “It’s not just the separation of powers, there also has to be the right balance between powers.”
He said the laws “absolutely serve the democratisation of the state and are the opposite of an oligarchy”.
Poland has three months to address EU concerns but PiS has shown no signs of backing down.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the reforms were essentials and “Poland is as devoted to the rule of law as the rest of the EU.”
Morawiecki added: “The dialogue between the commission and Warsaw needs to be both open and honest. I believe that Poland’s sovereignty and the idea of united Europe can be reconciled.”
Polish pro-EU protesters this year. Picture credit: Wikimedia